Former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, who directed the team to six NBA championships in the 1990s, is close to reaching an agreement to become the Los Angeles Lakers' coach, according to several sources and media reports.
Jackson, 54, and the Lakers are working out the final details of a contract that would pay Jackson about $6 million annually for four or five years, according to a source in Los Angeles. A deal likely will be consummated over the weekend or early next week.
Lakers Vice President Jerry West acknowledged to a source today that Jackson and the Lakers are in negotiations. Todd Musburger, Jackson's agent, traveled to Los Angeles tonight, the source said.
Jackson has not met face to face with Lakers management and is vacationing in Alaska. He is expected to arrive in Los Angeles in the next few days to meet with Lakers officials.
Kurt Rambis, the former Lakers forward and assistant coach who was thrust into the coaching job on an interim basis after Del Harris was fired early this season, likely will be offered a non-coaching position with the team, a source said.
Coincidentally, Jackson was expected to be in California next week to help drum up support for friend Bill Bradley's presidential campaign, which kicks off Saturday in San Diego.
Jackson, who stepped away from coaching after winning his third consecutive championship with the Bulls last season, was the most sought-after coaching candidate in the NBA.
The New Jersey Nets reportedly offered him their head coaching job with an annual salary in the $6 million to $9 million range. The New York Knicks also courted the former Knicks forward, even though current coach Jeff Van Gundy is under contract.
That caused a stir in New York for weeks and caused tremendous inner turmoil that nearly tore the fabric of the team. The uncertainty surrounding Van Gundy's status with the team may finally be put to rest if Jackson joins the Lakers.
Van Gundy has one year remaining on the three-year, $6 million contract he signed before last season. Since the Knicks eliminated the Indiana Pacers tonight in the Eastern Conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals, another year and $3.5 million of salary will be added to Van Gundy's contract.
As for the Nets, it appears Don Casey, who took over during the season after John Calipari was fired, is likely to assume the coaching position full-time. But a source close to Casey said that as of Thursday night, the team had not given Casey any indication about its plans.
The Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers also have coaching vacancies. In Washington, Isiah Thomas remains the favorite to replace Jim Brovelli, who took over for Bernie Bickerstaff on an interim basis after Bickerstaff was fired April 5.
Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld said he is close to deciding to whom he and team owner Abe Pollin will offer the job, and might decide early next week. Detroit Pistons assistant Gar Heard also is a front-runner for the Wizards' post.
The Cavaliers' coaching position became vacant when they recently fired Mike Fratello. Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Randy Wittman has been mentioned as a likely candidate for the job, but Cleveland has not contacted Minnesota to seek permission to speak to Wittman.
CAPTION: Phil Jackson, who has had feelers from Knicks and Nets, reportedly has been offered $6 million a season by Lakers.